Fri, Nov 28, 2003 - Page 22 News List

America's Cup heads to Valencia

AP , WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND

Team New Zealand expressed muted approval of Valencia as the next America's Cup venue yesterday, but said it was not yet certain it would be at the startline of a 2007 regatta.

Team head Grant Dalton said he was not surprised the Spanish port had been chosen to host the first European Cup regatta in more than 150 years, adding the former Cup-holders were already working on an analysis of Valencia's wind and sea conditions.

"As long as we can get a great big satellite dish to watch the [rugby] I don't care where it is," Dalton said.

"Valencia, Marseilles, Timbuktu -- it's all the same to us."

New Zealand held the America's Cup from 1995 to 2003, losing it in March to the Swiss syndicate Alinghi, which made its venue announcement in Geneva on Wednesday.

Dalton said it had been widely rumored Valencia would be chosen as the venue, although the French port of Marseilles had made a strong late bid to snatch the event.

He had elected not to attend the venue announcement in Geneva but, rather, to "stay at the coalface," concentrating on his continued effort to win sponsorship for Team New Zealand's bid to reclaim the Cup.

The team has given itself until March 31 to determine the financial viability of a 2007 challenge. Dalton said if Team New Zealand was unable to find the sponsorship it considered necessary for a challenge, it would not be among teams competing in Valencia.

"We're not going there on a broken wing," he said.

"I live in a world of sponsorship where the glass is always half empty. We've got to find an enormous amount of money and I can't say at the moment we'll be there."

Team New Zealand estimates it would need NZ$150 million (US$93 million) to mount a viable challenge this year. Dalton said he was working hard with potential sponsors to put together that amount. He would not say what funding, if any, was in place at the moment.

"I feel good about it but not overconfident," he said.

"In this business a couple of phone calls can literally change your world in 10 seconds and those phone calls have not been made yet."

Dalton said the New Zealand team that competes in Valencia will necessarily be different to the one which lost, 5-0, to Alinghi in March.

"When this team is announced, there will be significant talent there -- in some cases grizzled," he said.

"There is a very different Team New Zealand developing at the moment."

Dalton said Team New Zealand's weather expert, Australian-born Roger "Clouds" Badham, had already made a trip to Valencia to study weather conditions.

Team New Zealand doubted Valencia's winds were as steady or predictable as Alinghi had tried to suggest.

"Our info is, and we have right here, right now a Spanish guy who just happens to be working with us from Valencia, and he says it's quite shifty," he said.

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